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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 31.67%
Average: 18.33%
Pretty Bad: 13.33%
Total Crap: 3.33%

4 reviews, 36 user ratings

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Believer, The
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by EricDSnider

"A well-acted, thought-provoking film"
5 stars

"The Believer" is based on the true story of a Jewish kid who grew up to be a neo-Nazi skinhead. Such an incredibly ironic turn of events practically begs to be made into a film, and first-time director Henry Bean guides this one very well.

Ryan Gosling plays Danny Balint, the former Jewish-school troublemaker who has grown up to be a hatemonger. We see in flashback how he asked questions he shouldn't have asked, about how the Old Testament shows God to be power-hungry and malicious, about how his teachers were mortified at the things he would say. Now, in the present, he hides his roots from his peers, for obvious reasons, and emerges to be an articulate spokesman for the new movement.

The fascist and racist groups he connects with are a little embarrassed by him at first; anti-Semitism, frankly, is not fashionable anymore. Leading racists Lina (Theresa Russell) and Curtis (Billy Zane) recognize his potential, though, and try to use them for their good. Danny, meanwhile, is an item of increasing curiosity to Lina's daughter, Carla (Summer Phoenix).

But Danny doesn't want to wear a suit and be a lecturer; his stated goal is to kill a Jew. He is panicked, however, by Guy Danielsen (A.D. Miles), a newspaper reporter who uncovers his secret past. If he publishes that story, Danny says, he will kill himself. It all comes to a head, finally, on Yom Kippur -- the Day of Atonement.

If there was ever a more deeply conflicted character than Danny Balint, I'd like to see him. He wears his swastika T-shirt around like a badge, proof enough of what he stands for, even while telling Carla it's sacrilegious to swear in front of the scrolls he swiped from a synagogue. He leads his rednecked friends on a rampage through a synagogue, but keeps them from desecrating anything particularly holy.

Gosling's eyes are often as sad as they are hateful, and often convey both emotions at the same time. It's harrowing to realize, half-way through the film, that there's only one place this can lead.

Danny is, ultimately, the only character in the movie. The others are there to fulfill their functions, and the acting is respectable all around. But Danny -- thanks to Ryan Gosling -- is where the emotion is.

Every person of faith has either doubted his convictions or been unable to live up to them at some point, and Danny personifies that human-nature quandary.

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originally posted: 03/12/01 17:27:36
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User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell powerful 4 stars
3/28/07 fools♫gold More original and profound than I imagined; a step up from "American History X". 5 stars
6/10/06 Joe Welch Bungled presentation, confused with its own themes, but still interesting 4 stars
4/27/06 Caroline Raedeker provocative and compelling, but preachy and a bit confused. 4 stars
1/06/06 Phil M. Aficionado Pretty good because of the inner turmoil and contentiousness depicted; female roles weak 4 stars
1/03/05 Snickerdoodle Really good character study, but the ending was confusing. 4 stars
7/30/04 SMC Would've been better without all the uneccesary subplots. Excellent performance by Gosling 4 stars
6/26/04 Shant I thought it was an oustanding movie. Intense. 4 stars
6/21/04 Dick Logan Original movie, lead character gives strong performance, not AMX. 4 stars
6/02/04 Daveman Leagues better than American History X or Romper Stomper. 4 stars
2/11/04 Howard Sperm I want to puke with joy, a movie about a Nazi that kills himself! Sad the Nazi was a Jew 3 stars
1/29/04 Gloria Hoff a real hodge podge - and I'm Jewish! 3 stars
1/26/04 Agent Sands (previously Mr. Hat) It's another smart, creative microbudget film. 4 stars
1/22/04 Jennifer Kohli An amazing film, very realistic. 5 stars
6/24/03 Albie Gosling is great. not as believable as AHX 4 stars
6/05/03 gman too many story loops/plot holes, but a great performance; but a lackluster ending. 3 stars
6/04/03 Picky critic Original take on the otherwise overused neo-nazi theme 5 stars
2/11/03 Aussie Film Maker The story is too thin, and a bit melodramatic. Confronting but too many holes. 3 stars
9/21/02 marco guerra not that good eric but not so bad thom.bad acting,mediocre director 4 stars
6/15/02 Milan Stefe It is not art. It is not entertaining. What is left? 2 stars
6/03/02 Diana Philosophically Brilliant! Your relationship to God is in the way you treat other people. 5 stars
5/22/02 MethaneMan This movie was a major dissappointment. BAD ACTING!! 1 stars
5/21/02 Pap-shmear I thought the movie had a rather weak philosophical point to it. Nothin special. 2 stars
5/19/02 Simon.Birch I guess I just don't enjoy movies about guys with really f**ed up lives 1 stars
5/14/02 sally Unbelievable performance by Ryan Gosling 5 stars
4/05/02 The Bomb69 one messed up little boy!!! 5 stars
4/02/02 lauren mccreight a solid little film..... 3 stars
3/28/02 Kilmore Trout Absolutely outstanding work. A far better Sundance entry than In The Bedroom. Amazing! 5 stars
3/20/02 pkat unbelievable 5 stars
3/19/02 Justin Simpson A good movie that spun an excellent tale. 4 stars
3/18/02 Jenny of the best movies I have ever seen 5 stars
10/14/01 Fidel Di Paz I just sat through the end credits, unable to talk or to get up. It's a "must see". 5 stars
8/25/01 Patrick B Incredible, even for a gentile like myself. Deserves to be seen by everyone that can. 5 stars
8/22/01 Michel Ryan is great! 5 stars
8/12/01 John Askew Incredible -- awesome flick 5 stars
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  17-May-2002 (R)



Directed by
  Henry Bean

Written by
  Henry Bean

  Ryan Gosling
  Summer Phoenix
  Theresa Russell
  Billy Zane
  Garret Dillahunt
  Kris Eivers

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